Preparations for next year’s World Cup in France will ramp up at year’s end, with the Wallabies in talks to play up to five Tests on their Spring Tour.
The heavy international season will allow Dave Rennie to fine-tune his preparation for the career-defining tournament in France and help fill Rugby Australia’s coffers, which has the added benefit of helping the governing body keep its best talent at home.
The Wallabies are due to play France, Italy and Ireland in the official World Rugby window, but Rugby Australia has long been in discussions to play Wales in Cardiff in a cash cow for both nations.
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Scotland, where Rennie previously coached, has recently sounded out RA whether they would be interested in playing a Test before their official northern hemisphere starts.
With the World Cup on the horizon and Rennie keen for his young squad to get more match practice under their belts, particularly before seven matches in as many weeks to win a potential third Webb Ellis Cup, the tour looms as a significant stepping stone for Michael Hooper’s men.
News of the heavy international season comes as Brumbies lock Nick Frost is set to renege on his deal with Panasonic to remain in Australian rugby, while world class Wallaby Samu Kerevi could yet return from Japan.
Frost, who had a line put through his name on Tuesday when requests to talk to the rising second-rower on the Gold Coast were denied, sent shockwaves through RA and the Brumbies when the 22-year-old giant opted to join Robbie Deans’ powerhouse Japanese club.
Soon after the revelation, Rennie picked the 206cm, 120kg second-rower in his 40-man training squad ahead of July’s Test series against England.
Whether he plays is another thing altogether, with Rennie telling reporters on Tuesday that the second-row positions were open for the taking as evident by six locks being included in the wider squad.
But the timing of his selection was by no means a coincidence despite him being the biggest mover in Australian rugby this year and the quickest second-rower in the country by a mile, as showcased by his effort against the Reds in Brisbane last weekend.
RA had previously recognised his potential, with Brumbies coach Dan McKellar desperate to keep him, but saw him as someone for the future.
Whether his pending departure woke the national set up remains to be seen into taking action is not quite clear, but Frost is now interested in staying in Australia after being included in the squad.
It is understood Panasonic remain interested in keeping the prodigious talent, who will continue to get better over the next decade given the position he plays and its physical nature, but were he to be capped this year it would make it less desirable for the Japanese club to keep him given the eligibility laws surrounding internationals in the competition.
Kerevi, who is one of three world class Wallabies alongside Michael Hooper and Taniela Tupou, could yet return to Australian rugby after leaving following the 2019 World Cup.
Kerevi is off contract following the 2023 League One season in Japan, where he plays at powerhouse Suntory, and is open to returning to Australia and the lure of family is significant.
While RA could not match his hefty fee, a deal around $1 million could see him return home.
The devastating impact he showed during last year’s Rugby Championship, where he combined alongside Quade Cooper to help the Wallabies win five straight Tests, showed he would be worth every cent.
He can still be picked for the Wallabies as one of three overseas selection picks under the new eligibility laws, but by bringing him home Rennie would have an extra player to pluck from overseas. It would also end the discussion on how to fit four of Kerevi, Cooper, Marika Koroibete and Rory Arnold into three, too.
Kerevi, whose physical nature has drawn comparison to Ma’a Nonu and Manu Tuilagi, could also become the poster boy of Australian rugby.
With Hooper’s future up in the air beyond 2023, Kerevi would be the ideal candidate to become the next Wallabies captain and lead the nation against the British and Irish Lions in 2025.
Talk of Kerevi’s future ramped up following his Japanese League One press conference on Tuesday night when he lauded England coach Eddie Jones, who is back at Suntory where he is the club’s Director of Rugby.
“He’s been coaching England and they are a really physical side. The way European teams play rugby is a bit different to Japan and back at home in Australia,” Kerevi said.
“My work ethic off the ball, he spoke last year about trying to get more touches in my hands. He’s spoken about (England ace) Manu (Tuilagi) a lot and how he’s progressed his game, but also for myself just trying to add a few things to my game to really expand my skill set. That was his big thing from last year.”
“I’m mostly trying to get the England secrets away from him at the moment. I’m asking him a few questions on how they play and how his centres’ movements are, so hopefully I can help if I get selected back into the Wallabies.
“He’s been a great addition to us. I’ve dealt with him the last couple of years and had good conversations with him, especially one on ones. Rens (Rennie) has spoken about it the last couple of days, (Jones is) really experienced at that international level, so any insights he has for my game I really take on board and try to implement throughout the season.
“He’s always coming around saying how fit I am – really I’m not – but that positive reinforcement from a guy like him is awesome.”